Program Overview

The Linguistics Department at UK offers an undergraduate major, an undergraduate minor and a master’s degree program. The undergraduate major and minor aim to give students an understanding of the core areas of descriptive linguistics, language in a historical and social context and the application of linguistic theory to various real world problems. The master’s program aims at an advanced understanding of linguistics in both a theoretical and typological perspective. In its scope the program is unique in the commonwealth of Kentucky and one of the most rigorous programs in the South East.



UK’s Linguistics Program was founded in the early 1970s by Jean Pival (English), John Rea (French), and Tom Olshewsky (Philosophy), on whose vision of establishing a program in modern linguistics in the Commonwealth we have never ceased to build; over the years, numerous talented people have contributed to the growth and success of this program, including Susan Belmore (Psychology), Andy Hofling (Anthropology), Tom Hudak, Janine Scancarelli (both English), and Sharon Shelly (French), among many others. The fall of 2012 saw the first cohort of graduate students enrolled in the newly launched master’s in linguistic theory and typology. Following the recommendations of a panel of external reviewers a Linguistics Department was created on July 1st 2016. It was selected to host the 2017 Linguistic Society of America’s Summer Linguistics Institute which ran in the summer of 2017. 

Mission & Values

The Linguistics Department’s mission is based on three objectives:


Offer a first-rate undergraduate degree in the discipline of Linguistics.  In particular, we aim to provide our majors (and minors) with a solid theoretical grounding as well as practical experience in the formal analysis of linguistic structure at the phonological and grammatical levels, and to familiarize them with the sociological principles regulating the processes of language variation, language change, and language acquisition and learning.  We strive to equip our majors with the knowledge and skills necessary to enter the nation’s top graduate programs in Linguistics, or to successfully pursue a range of careers.


Make significant contributions to the rapidly expanding body of research devoted to understanding the nature of human language.


Foster interest in the scientific study of human language, and to provide curricular support to other degree programs across campus.


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